Jaahnavi Kandula’s death: US police officer who struck and killed Indian student won’t face criminal charges

Jaahnavi Kandula’s death: The Seattle police officer who killed Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old Indian student last year, won’t be criminally charged, the prosecutors informed on Wednesday (Feb 21). Kandula was struck and killed by a police officer in a South Lake Union crosswalk while responding to an overdose call in January 2023.

“After staffing this case with senior deputy prosecuting attorneys and office leadership, I have determined that we lack sufficient evidence under Washington state law to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said prosecutor Leesa Manion.

According to a memo issued to the Seattle Police Department, the King County prosecutor’s office noted that Officer Kevin Dave, who was driving 119 kph on a street with a 40 kph speed limit in a police SUV, had his emergency lights on. Other pedestrians reported hearing his siren and that Kandula appeared to try to run across the intersection after seeing his vehicle approaching.

It also added that Kandula may have been wearing wireless earbuds that could have diminished her hearing.

“There is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ofc. Dave was consciously disregarding safety,” read the memo.

Who was Jaahnavi Kandula? What happened on the date of her death in the US?

Kandula, the 23-year-old student hailed from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. She was pursuing a master’s degree in information systems from the Northeastern University campus in South Lake Union. She went to the US in 2021 on a student exchange programme and was due to get her master’s degree in December last year.

It has been reported that Kandula was a daughter to a single mother and wanted to support her after completing her studies.

Watch: Gravitas: Disturbing Footage: US Cop Mocks Indian Student’s Tragic Death

Seattle Police officers joke about Kandula

Kandula was killed after being hit by a police car which was being driven by Dave. After the deadly collision, she was thrown more than 100 feet away. She was rushed to Harbourview Medical Centre but succumbed to her injuries.

Officer Daniel Auderer, who is also vice-president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), was assigned to determine whether Officer Dave was under the influence. 

A video recorded from Auderer’s body-cam released by the Seattle Police Department showed him joking about Kandula’s death.

Auderer conducted a routine analysis of whether Dave was under the influence and then called Mike Solan, the president of the police union. The video reportedly shows Auderer’s side of the conversation and he can be heard laughing off the accident that caused Kandula’s death.

He downplayed the gravity of the incident by saying that the city should “write a check” to pay damages to the family of Kandula who “had limited value”.

(With inputs from agencies)

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